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Vol. 26, No. 3: The Women’s Issue

Witnessing

Resistance Poetry

by Crystal Simone Smith, Sheila Smith McKoy

Crystal Simone Smith’s haiku is infused with a profound love for and appreciation of the natural world. As one of a growing community of Black haiku poets, Smith’s work is also that of an activist, born from her life as a Black woman and mother of two Black sons. Her words resonate as much-needed interventions during a time—like so many other moments in our nation’s history—when it is all too harrowing to be Black and human. Her haiku “election night map,” written in response to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s Fifty Shades of White [above], exemplifies the art of distilling the moment. Smith’s work is shaped by her commitment to her craft and her refusal to look away. As she notes, “We have an obligation to respond to the immense ongoing inhumanity we are witnessing, ragingly so.” A poet whose work is at once haunting and human, Smith’s witness, her activism, is necessary reading.


election night map
the bloody south
remains bloody

*

slave museum—
the entrance fountain
an ebbing shore

*

tide pool
the silent panic
of silver fish

*

in the midst
of killings
the flowers return

*

pool hall—
I beat the hajibed
woman’s husband

*

downtown rebuild
a preacher sermons
his homeless congregation

*

another mass shooting
my son practices
his trumpet solo

*

noontide
housekeepers gossip
under the palms

*

slave quarters
in one brick
a thumbprint

*

synagogue shooting
a spring clothesline
of waving colors

These poems first appeared in the Women’s Issue (vol. 26, no. 3: Fall 2020).

Crystal Simone Smith is an award-winning poet. She founded and serves as the managing editor of Backbone Press. Her haiku have appeared in Frogpond, Modern Haiku, and elsewhere. She is the author of Wild Flowers (2016) and coauthor of One Window’s Light (Unicorn Press, 2017). She is currently a Humanities Unbounded Fellow at Duke University.

A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Sheila Smith McKoy serves as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Holy Names University, a campus with a history of social justice engagement. She holds a BA from North Carolina State University, an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a PhD from Duke University.

Image: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Fifty Shades of White (detail), 2018. Mixed media on canvas. Promised gift of Nancy A. Nasher (L’79, P’18, P’22) and David J. Haemisegger (P’18, P’22). Image courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Select poems have appeared elsewhere: “slave museum” (Pinesong), “slave quarters” (Earthsigns: 2017 Haiku North America Anthology), “in the midst” and “noontide” (Modern Haiku), “downtown rebuild” and “another mass shooting” (One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku).

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